The excitement of the ride has my blood racing this time of year. Yet as I told Nancy Haugan the other day when she was out to vet the horses, “It never fails each and every time I step back out it’s as if those 1000’s of miles behind me never existed. It’s as if I had never done any of it and I question, “can I do this again?” Three weeks into the journey I will be taken over with the exhilaration, the call of the horizon, the love of the ride.
The Canadian Geese are calling, and I reply to them…”I am coming, I am coming.
Rain again today, can not complain we need it. Perhaps we’ll not have another fire season like we had last year.
I leave in less than 5 weeks- And until I leave I am making the most of my time with friends and Community.
More visitors from the east side of Montana.… Bob and Naomi Rushdal took the train from Forsyth, Montana to Libby to visit their son. He brought them up for a visit. It was a fast and furious visit full of smiles and laughter. She brought news of my dear friend Berniece Higgenbotham from Forsyth now a young 94 year old. I met Berniece and her Uncle Bill Straw (now deceased) when I wintered in Bill’s little red barn north of town. I have many years and experiences traveling to reflect back on but THIS, living out in that wild landscape 4 miles from town, alone for 5 months was a highlight I will never forget, I just loved the time there.
…..that is music to my ears! I’m so glad I rode as far as I did last year because I met a host of folks that are now offering to help with the last stretch of the ride. I will get off to a good start. I know it’s only about 1000 miles but it may be one of the most difficult stretches I’ll ride on this 8000 mile adventure. Last week I spoke with Gary Bellinger from Chewelah, he’ll be helping facilitate my staging point – talks, horseshoes and boxes that must be shipped from Chewelah. He’s an avid horseman himself and a member of Back Country Horseman a group I will be speaking for on the 21st of April.(more info later).
I have two library talks scheduled when I arrive in Chewelah next month.
I had guests from Canada! David and Hania Nahachewsky came down to pick my long riding brain. David and his two daughters,(one is a Vet and the other a Vet-tech.) have been following my rides for years. I have been visited by several individuals over the years seeking “how to do a long ride” advice. Sometimes they leave and I think, “I hope they never do the ride because the horses will be the ones that suffer.” But after spending two days with David I felt confident their ride will be successful and the ride done with care. They are attempting to ride with 5 horses from Manitoba to Vancouver, B.C. next year.
While the Nahachewsky’s were here they stayed at THEODORA”S HIDEAWAY a lovely vacation rental literally next door.
Response from David and Hania: received March 9th
Good morning, I just wanted to write a note to all who follow Bernice Ende and her amazing horses.
My wife and I were fortunate enough to spend time with Bernice while she was preparing for her next season of riding. We spoke for many hours about equipment, techniques, safety and philosophies of Long Riding.
My two daughters and I have been planning our first long ride for some time now. The two sessions with Bernice will help my daughters, myself and our horses stay safer and enjoy the trek even more. I couldn’t help but feel Bernice’s energy, strength and passion for the lifestyle that she has fallen in love with. More importantly, I felt that she was blunt and honest towards my idealistic thoughts of a long ride. Bernice brought experience and reality to many aspects of what we are going to attempt, but did not discouraged us in anyway. Thank you!!
I also have to mention that we stayed at the amazing “Hideaway” which is part of Theodora’s Garden operated by another great lady. Theodora Brennan, better known as Teddy, has her Masters Degree in herbalism, and is truly magical in her field. My wife spent much of her time walking, taking photographs of the area and learning about Teddy’s remarkable skills.
Thank you both for everything, David and Hania
I am pleased to welcome Theodora’s Hideaway to my Sponsorship list. IF EVER you come to Montana and would like to visit and or wish to pick my brain for long ridingtips, you now have an affordable, lovely place to nestle into.
I do believe winter has given up. Snow recedes beneath trees, lawns are once again reappearing even song birds and daffodil buds have arrived. I suppose being sick made this winter seem particularly long. How quickly we forget once the sun’s warmth hits our faces. I am riding ever day now. The horses look like dirty woolly mammoths at this time of the year/ I look like one after I slide down from their backs in the afternoon. I give them a break from packs and cinches and ride bareback all winter, besides it’s warmer.
This Monday I have a couple coming from Canada to pick my brains about long riding. David and Hania Nahachewsky will be staying over night at THEODORA’S HIDEAWAY, Theodora’s Hideawayliterally next door. We will cover as much as we can with the time that we have. Saddling and packing, how I use the equipment and preventative measures are of great interest to them as is feeding, shoeing, maintenance of equipment and safety. I will take photos and let you know how it goes. As I am asked by many, “How do you do a long ride,” I am considering offering workshops and even taking out a rider or two for a week long training ride. We shall see how it goes. I do enjoy sharing the information and God knows I have enough experience! smiles
I am also, much to my surprise, delighted to be teaching a few ballet classes each week at Eureka’s Creative Arts Center. When I ended my career in 2003 I said,”I’ll never go back.” Now here I am and its simply a joy to be back in a dance studio again. I feel like I never left. I will post a few BALLET photo’s next week. A contrast to all these horsey photos!!
Other than that I am still on my “health regime overhaul” and will be until I leave in April. I’ll make a short trip (via airplane)the first week of April to New Mexico and visit sisters. When I return…it is pack up, shoe the horses and head out. Lets complete this 8000 mile odyssey I began 2 years ago!!
Dolly and John Foss sent this lovely collage last week. As the story goes….I rode by their home heading east, it was a late fall evening. I had “campsite” on my mind. A large yard in back, a friendly dog and the look of a place that might just welcome a lady long rider with her two horses. I actually rode by but turned around, I am so glad I did. “Of course,” came the reply. I had dinner with Dolly and John, washed my clothes and took a shower. After breakfast the next day I said, “Well I might be coming back this way on my return, should I stop?” I did. It was colder, I needed a coat, John found one in his closet – they even made me wear a reflector vest as hunting season had begun. I had another set of parents when I rode out. We have stayed in touch. More friends, goodness my saddle bags are full of wonderful memories!!!
there is more….
I had not talked with Angela Bates in years so our phone call last week reached into the late hours. We have over the years always managed to stay in touch. Angela is Nicodemus’s local historian and responsible for putting this once thriving town on the the National Historic Registrar. She also has her hands full managing a restaurant in the town of now 25 I think she said. THIS is definitely worth a stop if you are in Kansas. Such a remarkable story of a people’s tenacious desire for freedom and the will to make it happen! Angela sent the video yesterday. I had to share it with all of you. The photos are from my visits to Nicodemus, one in 2008 and the other in 2010. Bravo Angela, Bravo.
Because the return ride home from New York became so very difficult I did not get this story posted sooner. I met Pat Wolfe in Ontario about a month into the 2015 ride home. Little did I know just whom I was talking with when he called asking for an interview. Following the article check out his website see what a difference his Fjords are from Essie who is not so refined. Essie is, as Pat pointed out to me from an older Canadian Fjord foundation line of breeding. Also look at Pats remarkable list of accomplishments. It was an honor to have met him and I can never repay him for all the help he offered when I came close to Sudbury, Ontario.
LADY LONG RIDER BERNICE ENDE
By Pat Wolfe
This spring I heard of a Lady Long Rider traveling from the east coast to the west coast riding Fjord Horses. I looked up Bernice Ende’s web site and found out she was leaving Fort Edward, New York at the end of March and crossing into Canada. I thought this would make a good article for our newsletter. Unfortunately for me, her online map showed her going through Quebec which was a little too far away from me to do an interview.
However, at the end of April I received a call from a friend who mentioned a lady riding Fjords and traveling across Canada had camped at her neighbor’s a week ago. My friend only lives 10 miles from me! I couldn’t believe I had missed meeting Bernice on my own doorstep. I found her website again and emailed her. By the time I got a reply back, she was 150 miles from me, heading for Sudbury. Unfortunately I was working at the time and couldn’t get away for another week. I did contact her again though and she asked if I knew of anyone that could truck her horses around the City of Sudbury because of some major road construction there.
Sudbury is 500 kilometers north of me but I’d just got a new truck in the winter and wasn’t sure how it would handle my horse trailer. Here was an opportunity to find out. I made arrangements to meet Bernice on Hwy 255 near the corner of Hwy 69, 50 miles south of Sudbury, in the late afternoon of May 13th.
After five hours driving I started seeing horse tracks on the side of the road. One hour later I spotted a lady wearing a wide brimmed hat with two Fjord horses traveling down the road. Wow! What a neat site. As I drove by her to find a place to pull over, I received a huge, welcoming smile.
Pat and Bernice finally meet near Sudbury.
I stopped along the side of the road,
loaded her horses and gear and we were off to Sudbury. There was no way she could have traveled along Highway 69. They were widening the two lanes to four. There were rocks being blasted and heavy machinery moving earth. We drove through Sudbury and picked up my brother-in-law and he found a great place just outside of town where Bernice was able to set up camp. Going north was also a good excuse to visit family.
Being a Fjord horse enthusiast, when I first stopped to give Bernice a ride I checked out the quality and fitness of her horses. At first glance I knew I was looking at one Canadian bred Fjord. If you look at the pedigree of Essie Pearl, one of Bernice’s two mares, it takes you back to the Buck line. The other mare, Montana Spirit, is a 3/4 bred Fjord with Percheron the other ¼.
Both horses are totally fit and their feet are in excellent condition. These horses travel on a lot of pavement so Bernice has them shod with corks on all four feet. She uses barium studs on the shoes. The only maintenance is to change shoes every six weeks or when the shoes wear out. Keeping the horses from getting saddle sores is a challenge. Sheep skin saddle pads help.
When she is not on the trail she will hobble or tether the horses. When hobbling she uses three hobbles, two front feet and one back foot. When she sleeps, she tethers the horses with a 25 foot rope tied to a stake or a tree and to the left front foot. When I asked Bernice how far her horses have traveled with her, I couldn’t believe it. 13 year old Essie Pearl has traveled 18,000 miles and 7 year old Montana Spirit has traveled 8,000 miles. Bernice has been Long Riding for eleven years and has traveled 25,000 miles on horseback. Bernice told me she likes to travel 30 miles a day. She begins her day in the dark at 5 am and is in the saddle by 6:00. She walks the horses for ten miles, and stops for an hour and a half. She takes off all their gear, brushes them down, and lets them dry if they are sweaty. At this time they get a chance to nibble grass and tank up with water. During this break, she makes herself a cup of tea, writes in her journal, and enjoys the countryside. Then she saddles up again and goes for another ten miles. This second ten miles is often done at a slow trot. She takes another break and completely brushes and cools down her horses, sometimes takes a nap, and then leads them at a walk for an hour and a half or so. She has this walk herself every day. In the early evening she rides again to make up the 30 miles total for the day. She’s pretty self-sufficient, even to doing her own shoeing.
Although she has taken other horses in the past, she says after experiencing Fjords, she would take nothing else. “They’re exceptional,” she says. “They have a train brain- steady and forward.” She’s always getting questioned about the Fjords and feels Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit have opened a lot of eyes and hearts to the Fjord breed.
Bernice takes as little with her as she can manage, a total of 80 pounds: her small two man tent with a thermal blanket on the top (she heats the tent with three candles and uses cut off pop bottles for vents); a small propane burner; one pot; farrier supplies and prefitted horse shoes; a pooper scooper; small folding water pails; and her food. She carries rice, beans and tea, and forages for the rest: nettles, lambsquarters, wild leeks and asparagus, and dandelion greens. She will be invited occasionally by people she meets for meals, but always sleeps in her tent near her Fjords. She alternates horses, riding and carrying.
To Bernice, her horses are her traveling partners. Every minute of the day she is thinking of their welfare.
Bernice sold her dance school when she decided to do long riding and she finds traveling more physically demanding than even ballet. She is totally engaged when in the saddle, always attentive. For this reason, she doesn’t encourage anyone to ride along with her. There is no relaxing as she travels highways.
All gear is out and ready to pack.
Trip number one was in 2005, from Trego, Montana to Edgewood, New Mexico, 2000 miles, at that time with one horse and her dog, Claire, now retired. After that trip, the Long Riding bug had bitten and there was no turning back. In 2006 and 7, she did a 5000 mile, 18 month ride, with her horse and Claire (l6 months, 14 sets of horseshoes, 12 pairs of dog booties.) Then in 2008, Bernice bought her first Fjord, Essie Pearl, and did a 3000 mile trip. Bernice says that even when she’s home, she finds it very difficult to be indoors and so she still sleeps outside in her tent, to keep herself in the right frame of mind. Then she gets bored and needs to be on the road again. 25,000 miles later she’s now on a trip from Montana to Maine (she camped in Maine last winter) and on through Canada from east to west, then home again to Montana in 2016. I asked her whether she’s nervous being alone on the road. She says she carries a gun when she’s in the states, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, although she does feel safe. In all her years on the road she’s met wonderful people, and has had a few scares, but they weren’t from people.
On her second trip she came as close as possible to being killed. She was in the NW corner of New Mexico and it was freezing. “I had no tent with me, just a sleeping bag and a tarp. I broke one of my own rules, which is never to sleep near water. Too many animals coming down to drink.”
She had pulled off the road through a gate into a large fenced area and had ridden about a quarter mile off the road. “I didn’t realize there was a big drum of shelled corn put out as wild pig bait near the water. I set up a 25 foot picket line for my horse and got into my sleeping bag. At midnight the wind picked up, the moon was down and the weather suddenly got wild. About a half hour later I smelled a herd of wild pigs, then 15 minutes later a herd of wild burros. Then I heard a scream. It was an old black stallion with five colored mares. Suddenly he was over me on his hind legs with his yellow teeth bared. My dog Claire was covered in cactus and crying. The stallion was trying to kill me to steal my mare.” Bernice said she was fighting for her life and terrified. She kept hitting the stallion with a rope at the same time trying to get her things packed and on the horse. He bit her mare, and came at her low, almost creeping, over and over again in a circle. “I was throwing things together and hitting him with the rope every time he got in close enough to attack me. I was leading the horse and I couldn’t find my way to the road. I was lost but Claire found the path, and all the while I was trying to lead the mare, the stallion was mounting her and tearing off the pack. Eventually, I found the gate and got through. Then I sat on the ground in the white frost and cried. When I finally got going again, he followed along on the other side of the fence until daylight.” There have been other close calls including a few grizzly bears she’s been able to scare away by noise made from flapping her tarp in the air, but nothing quite as frightening as that night.
Bernice is a member of the Long Riders’ Guild, an international association of equestrian explorers from 45 countries. It represents men and women who have ridden more than 1000 continuous miles on a single journey. She has more than fulfilled the requirements. There aren’t many men or women out there who are as dedicated to their animals and to life on the road as Bernice is.